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I have read the entire Emergency Management Plan that has been put together by the Spirit Lake School District.  We should be proud of the efforts that have been put forth with the idea of doing the best to protect our kids and keep them safe through all foreseeable emergencies.  It is commendable that the school board is so passionate about keeping our future generations safe.

Having served in the military for 25 years in combat zones and in peace time, I have found that a good plan will go a long way towards a good response.  When putting a plan such as this together, the hope is that it is never needed or used as a response.  The reality is that plans such as this are needed the same as when an army prepares for war during peacetime.  I do not compare our school to that of a military but want to clarify that the importance of having a plan is just as important to protect our children.

The emergency plan the school has put together is divided into three major sections, the Event Driven Procedure which includes such things as weather procedures, medical procedures, evacuation procedures, and yes even armed intruder procedures.  The specific emergency response guidelines is the action part of the plan and describes what should hapen for many different emergencies such as fire, weather, and even violent behavior.  Finally, the media inquiry section describes the information dissemination and control portion of the plan.  To me this is one of the most important parts of the plan in that any emergency has a need for a centralized command and control and message dispersion.

This plan is a very inclusive and effective guideline for protecting our kids and the employees who work at our school, and I think nearly every parent and member of the community would immediately move to adopt the plan, except for one provision in the plan which calls for armed school personnel.

The school has done a wonderful job of making the buildings on campus harder to target with door locks, cameras, and other security measures.  It is impossible to make a building totally safe from attack and that is where the provision to arm school personnel comes into play.  As a last option, the school is choosing to arm personnel who will be the last defense.  I pray it never happens but as I mentioned above, if you do not prepare then you are prepared to fail, and one child’s life is too much to risk on that bet.

As I read the plan, however, it specifies how much training that the school staff will receive and the training they receive is as much if not more rigorous than our law enforcement officers to include ongoing training and certification.  In fact, they are trained more extensively and receive live fire training more than many military people who carry a sidearm into combat and yet those young men and women are sent to war with that training.

I know the response to having guns carried by school employees in the school is a controversial one.  It is not an easy decision but, in this world, where we have 4 college students in Utah killed by knife, parade goers run down by car in Wisconsin, and a school shooting in Texas where it took over 1 hour for law enforcement to take that perpetrator down, we need to have an intermediate response in our schools as a last defense option.  I prefer that to having teachers cover students with their body while being shot along with the child.

Our world is not an easy one and sometimes we need to make uneasy decisions.  I applaud the Spirit Lake School District for their courage in moving this direction.  I pray that the Emergency Response Plan is never used but am thankful that it has been developed.  I have read the plan and encourage you to do the same.  If you are critical of it before reading it and understanding it then you are not doing justice to the plan, the people who put it together, and to those who, God-forbid, ever need to implement it.

You can read and comment on the plan by clicking this link:

There is a Google Form Questionnaire you can fill out, or an email you can use to make comment:  [email protected]

Please let the district know what you think of their plan.

Author: John Wills


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